February 2013

LeAnne Velona

The Beauty Professional| by Fred Jones


Be Proud of Your Profession

Be proud! You made an excellent choice selecting the beauty industry as your path to success and a good living.

Sadly, so many others weren't anywhere near as fortunate.

Did you know that just over half of recent college graduates are looking for work or "underemployed" in a job below or unrelated to their degree? Also consider the fact that since 2000, earnings for college grads have been declining, while their loan-debt has been spiking.

These numbers only apply to those who actually earned a college degree. It doesn't take into account the nearly half of students who went to a four-year college – building their debt – and never completing their degrees.

Did you know that 83 percent of community college graduates and those with some sort of vocational license have the same annual earnings as four-year college grads?

Those with one and two year technician level degrees -- like cosmetology -- have an "underemployment" rate FAR below four-year grads. And they are able to enter the job market much sooner than their college counterparts, and with considerably less debt.

I hope I don't sound anti-college, as that wasn't the intent. Instead, I want to focus on the insanity of the notion that the only hope for success is a four-year college degree, and that our economy is dependent on college grads.

You may ask, then, why states like California are led by politicians fixated on that idea. My state lawmakers have all but gutted taxpayer-supported vocational education for high school students and adults; many of our regional occupation cosmetology programs that worked with schools have recently been shuttered. Instead, our elected officials have focused tax money on college-bound programs and college tuition and loan assistance.

And California isn't the only state like that; the same can be said of most state legislatures, and to a growing extent Congress, as well.

Why do our elected representatives ignore overwhelming economic evidence and pursue the fanciful idea that everyone needs to go to a four-year college?

It's a complicated political question. Suffice it to say, that politicians are products of their environment, most having college and even post-graduate degrees. They assume their pathway to success should be replicated throughout society, so that everyone can be successful. Their intentions may be pure; but, as the saying goes, "Hell isn't merely paved with good intentions; it's walled and roofed with them. Yes, and furnished too."

As an industry based on the skills and talents of non-college degree recipients, we need to do a better job educating the public about the value of hands-on, client-focused, service-oriented trades and professions. We need to inform our elected representatives that our sector of the economy enjoys the largest percentage of female-owned businesses, the highest concentration of entrepreneurs, and one of the fastest and least expensive employment tracks available to those seeking self-sustaining careers.

We have our work cut out for us. Far too often a career in beauty is perceived by the media, Hollywood, and the "intellectual elites" as a dead-end pathway to minimum wage work. They view hands-on trades as menial, dirty and unrewarding. But they have shaped their misconceptions based on sitting atop the Ivory Towers of their own college backgrounds.

The "college-for-all" drive that has been pervasive the past several decades has helped create a new and unstable economy. College grads have been coming out of school with theoretical knowledge but few practical skills. Employers made room for this new sector of white collar worker-bees by dividing office buildings into smaller and smaller cubicles with more telephones, PC's and network servers. Many of those cubicle-based jobs have been terminated since 2008, most of which will never return.

Government continues with more federal grants and favorable loan guarantees for college tuition. Of course, as government made loans more accessible, colleges simply -- and rather dramatically -- increased tuition rates (outpacing inflation three-fold the past 20 years).

We, the people, and our elected representatives must understand the value of practical skills that are marketable and sustaining.

Be proud of your beauty-related training and license. Yours is a career that is recession resistant, cannot be outsourced overseas, and enhances the self-image of all of your clients.

Fred Jones serves as Legal Counsel to the Professional Beauty Federation of California, a trade association singularly dedicated to raising the professionalism of the beauty industry. To learn more about the PBFC and receive further details about the subjects contained in his column, go to www.beautyfederation.org.